ST. PAUL, Minessota — Tricia Mattson never expected a natural disaster 2,000 miles away to change her life, but after the 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti, she felt compelled to help. She has continued to do so ever since. Mattson was working a shift as a nurse when she heard the news. Even though she had no personal connection to Haiti, the tragedy overwhelmed her. The earthquake measured at a magnitude of 7.0 and hit just outside of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Estimates of the death toll varied, but some put the number as high as 300,000 people.
The 2010 Earthquake in Haiti
One of the poorest nations in the world, Haiti faced additional challenges after the earthquake damaged or destroyed much of its infrastructure, including 60% of its healthcare system. Thousands found themselves homeless, electricity was in short supply and the magnitude of the event left rescue and aid groups overwhelmed. In fact, doctors and aid workers were among those injured and killed due to the earthquake’s devastation.
The earthquake in Haiti struck in January. About two months later, Mattson and fellow nurse Julie Louise Koski had raised enough money to make their first trip to the country. They volunteered their medical skills and experience to the populations most in need.
Peace Love Haiti
“I never thought I would go into medical missions,” Mattson said. “But after that first mission, you couldn’t keep us back.” Mattson and Koski were so deeply affected by their trip to Haiti that they founded a nonprofit organization called Peace Love Haiti to help them raise money and collect supplies to continue their work. “Haiti grabbed our hearts and souls,” Mattson said. “Haitians are the most resilient, kind and happy people I know.”
Peace Love Haiti makes two trips each year and works to bring medical services to remote regions of Haiti, where poverty runs rampant and access to healthcare is limited. Along with treating diseases like malaria and typhoid, Mattson and Koski also provided aid during a cholera epidemic, which began just a few months after the earthquake. “I want people to know that Haitians die of unclean water and diseases that we in the U.S. are vaccinated against,” Mattson said. “They die of what starts out as a simple infection.”
A Changing Country
Even ten years after the earthquake, Haiti is working to rebuild and develop. More than six million Haitians live in poverty, and 2.5 million live in extreme poverty. This limits their access to education and healthcare. Despite efforts to improve these conditions, there is still a long way to go.
“It’s very hard to go to Haiti twice a year and not see many changes. It’s easy to get discouraged and give up,” Mattson said. “I’ve learned that I am there to make a difference in the lives of the people that I see every day, one person at a time.”
Peace Love Haiti continues its work to support Haitian communities by providing medical assistance. Mattson and Koski have also been working to raise awareness about the ongoing recovery process after the earthquake in Haiti. They visit churches and community organizations to advocate for the country and people they’ve come to care so much about. “I’m amazed every single trip,” said Mattson. “I wish people knew how close Haiti really is to the USA … and that they can help.”
– Nicole Ronchetti